SBJ/Sept. 2-8, 2013/Facilities

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  • Aramark installs tablets as part of Soldier Field improvements

    Don Muret
    Aramark has installed new point-of-sale technology at Soldier Field so that its employees can use tablets to process all food and drink transactions at Chicago Bears games, concerts and other events.

    The new system is part of the first phase of Aramark’s three-year plan to upgrade general concessions and premium dining at the stadium, said Carl Mittleman, its Denver-based regional vice president. The company took over the facility’s food service in mid-July.
    The concessionaire replaced the stadium’s old countertop registers with more than 500 tablets throughout the stadium. The engine driving the technology, Micros’ Simphony point-of-sale network, was up and running for the Taylor Swift concert Aug. 10, Mittleman said.

    “We got rid of all the registers,” Mittleman said. “The tablet sits in a cradle, tied to a cash drawer underneath the counter.”

    Micros tablets are replacing cash registers at Soldier Field concessions stands.
    Photo by: MICROS
    The Micros technology enables Aramark to send real-time information to its managers’ mobile phones every 15 minutes so they can replenish concession stands and make other adjustments, said Amy Cross, Aramark’s chief information officer.

    It also has a kitchen display system for specialty stands with monitors tracking the progress of an order. The displays have built-in alerts to notify Aramark officials of any breakdowns in the preparation of a food item. The monitors are also visible to the patron, Cross said.

    For the Bears, the technology extends to data analytics tied to a loyalty program that the NFL team can activate in the future with a points system to reward fans for purchasing food and drink.

    The Bears and Aramark have had initial talks about incorporating the loyalty program into the point-of-sale system, Cross said. At this point, though, the system is restricted to the tablet function, given that the vendor had only six weeks to get ready for football season, she said.

    “Putting the point-of-sale system in quickly was the first step,” said Chris Hibbs, the Bears’ vice president of sales and marketing. “But just seeing [Aramark general manager] Brad Pernaw walk around the stadium looking at an app on his phone to find out how things are selling is a gigantic step forward on how to understand the technology and where it fits in with food and beverage.”

    Aramark officials say the tablets’ flexibility carries value. A stand worker can remove the Micros-made tablet from its cradle and take orders from people standing further back in line. The tablets are also sturdy enough to withstand colder temperatures during late-season games, Cross said.

    Next year, Aramark plans to make tablets available for fans to place their own orders at Soldier Field stands, she said.

    The system positions Aramark as mobile technology evolves toward fans ordering food and drink on their smartphones. “Wherever the industry goes, this goes with it,” Mittleman said.

    Aramark is not the first vendor to use tablets as a key component of point-of-sale systems. Last year, Centerplate launched a cloud-based system at University of South Carolina sports facilities that company officials said at the time was the first entirely mobile point-of-sale network.

    > CHICAGO 365: Aramark has branded its Soldier Field operation as Chicago365 Hospitality to reflect the deals it has signed with local restaurateurs Linda Bacin, Michael Kornick and David Morton of the Morton’s The Steakhouse family.

    The brand’s emphasis on the local market follows deals Aramark signed with the Cleveland Browns and Houston Astros for premium food operations, showcasing signature recipes from celebrity chefs such as Michael Symon and Bryan Caswell, respectively.

    The Soldier Field deal stands out because it is the first time the vendor has folded general concessions under a brand name separate from Aramark. As a result, Bears fans will not see the Aramark logo on display inside the stadium, which is fine with Mittleman.

    DMK Burger Bar will be among the local brands coming to Soldier Field concourses.
    Image: ARAMARK
    The Chicago365 Hospitality brand was designed to deliver authentic Chicago cuisine year-round, and it reflects Aramark’s plan to drive more non-game-day revenue in addition to supporting the Bears’ game-day experience, he said.

    Initially, Bacino’s meatballs will be served on the club level for $9. The plan is to expand the item to general concessions for the 2014 season, Mittleman said.

    Kornick and Morton co-own the DMK Burger Bar’s two locations in Greater Chicago. At Soldier Field, the DMK Experience stand will serve four to five burgers, priced at $12, as well as craft beers. It replaces an old grill stand on the main concourse on the stadium’s southeast corner.

    > RENAMING NASSAU: Don’t expect Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to keep its original name after Forest City Ratner Cos. won the job to redevelop the arena and surrounding property.

    Over the next two months, Brett Yormark, Barclays Center’s CEO and Forest City’s front man for the Nassau project, will hit the streets with a plan to sell naming rights for the entire complex, including the arena and the proposed mixed-use components tied to the developer’s partners.

    The idea is to create an overall brand identity for the entire destination with the individual venues listed below the complex’s official name, Yormark said. Taking that angle provides greater value and visibility for the property than just selling the arena’s naming rights alone, he said.

    Forest City’s partners include concert promoter Live Nation and food provider Legends Hospitality, co-owned by the New York Yankees.

    “We’ve always wanted to partner with the Yankees and think highly of the Yankees’ brand,” Yormark said.
    Live Nation would program the proposed Fillmore nightclub, similar to its role at nearby Jones Beach Theater, Yormark said.

    Forest City has not made a decision regarding who would run the renovated Nassau Coliseum. The arena, pending NHL approval, will book six New York Islanders games a year after the team moves to Brooklyn in 2015. The Islanders now run Nassau in conjunction with SMG.

    Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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  • Designers plan to make new Nassau shine

    The concrete box known as Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum will become a gleaming beacon that speaks to Long Island’s environment while gaining the amenities of newer facilities, according to architects involved in the project.

    Gensler and SHoP Architects, the two firms designing the renovation, have more meetings planned for early September in New York, said Peter Wang, one of three Gensler principals working on the project.

    The shimmering skin of the new Nassau Coliseum is seen in a rendering of the complex set up for an outdoor concert.
    Image: SHOP ARCHITECTS
    “It’s interesting,” said Ron Turner, Gensler’s director of sports and entertainment and a principal in the company’s Los Angeles office. “I think everyone [in sports architecture] has looked at [renovating] the building at one time or another. It does have good bones.”

    SHoP Architects designed Barclays Center’s unique rust-colored exterior and is now responsible for transforming Nassau Coliseum’s bland exterior skin. The redesign covers hundreds of metal panels anchored to the existing concrete facade, augmented by a digital light package to create a shimmering glow at night and bring a sense of depth to the building, said Chris Sharples, a principal with the firm.

    The architect’s intent is to develop a greater connection for the arena to Long Island by creating sandy tones that reflect the region’s dunes, wavy beach grasses and bleached sundecks, Sharples said.

    The Long Island beach theme will extend inside the arena for the concourse redesign, said Wang, who is no relation to Islanders owner Charles Wang. Gensler is responsible for redesigning the arena’s box office, concourses, seating bowl and premium spaces.

    Peter Wang is working on the project along with studio director Linda Jacobs and project manager Sandra Yencho. Together, their sports design experience is limited and they will lean on Turner for project support, Wang said.

    The goal is to eliminate the painted concrete and visual clutter on the concourse walls created by hanging banners and sponsorship signs, and instead develop a cohesive plan for graphics, an understated look for branded spaces similar to Barclays Center, Wang said.

    The box office itself, “bunkerlike and encased in brick,” will undergo a dramatic change by constructing a glass enclosure with back lighting and video monitors to make it more welcoming for ticket buyers, he said.

    The seating bowl will be reduced to 13,000 seats from its 17,696-seat setup. Project officials said it is still too early to determine the premium-seat mix in the new configuration. The arena now has 32 suites and about 100 club seats.

    Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer for Barclays Center in Brooklyn, recently won the job to renovate the arena and develop the surrounding property. The $229 million Nassau Events Center project includes about $90 million targeted for the coliseum retrofit.

    The 41-year-old arena, home of the New York Islanders and owned by Nassau County, has gone without major improvements for many years. Charles Wang grew weary of the lack of public financial support for his own efforts to renovate the facility and ultimately decided to move the NHL team to Barclays Center starting with the 2015-16 season.

    The county eventually found a solution for upgrading the arena and creating development tied to the venue, selecting Forest City over a proposal submitted by Madison Square Garden.

    The project includes a commitment from Forest City Ratner to play six Islanders games a year at Nassau among other sports events, and it brings new life to an arena many thought was doomed to extinction.

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  • Packers fans take Lambeau Leap into inclusive seats in new end zone addition

    Green Bay Packers fans have embraced the team’s new inclusive ticket concept for Lambeau Field’s south end zone expansion.

    The $143 million addition, which opened this season, covers about 7,000 total seats distributed among five levels of new construction atop the now eight-level south end. Four indoor lounges in the expansion are tied to ticket prices covering the cost of food and drink, something common in the NFL but new at Lambeau.

    The new Champions Club on the top level of the south end zone expansion has sold out.
    Photo by: GREEN BAY PACKERS
    One week before the regular season starts, season-ticket sales for two new lounges — the Festival Foods MVP Deck on level six and the Champions Club on the eighth floor — are sold out, according to Packers spokesman Aaron Popkey.

    Tickets cost $89 a game for the Festival Foods space, an area encompassing about 1,400 seats. Champions Club tickets cost $310 to $325 game for an indoor club seat.

    “It took a little education on the front end for everybody to understand what’s included, but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Jason McDonough, the team’s manager of premium seating sales and service.

    The Packers call their ticket model “inclusive” because in general it does not cover the cost of beer, wine and hard liquor.

    Those holding tickets for the Miller Lite Party Lounge and Party Deck, two group spaces on level four, and Festival Foods MVP Deck receive two drink tickets a game that they can use to buy beer, said Charlie Millerwise, general manager for Delaware North Sportservice, the Packers’ food provider.

    The Packers last week had sold all 17 of 20 new terrace suites on reserve for long-term deals, McDonough said.

    The three terrace suites reserved for single-game rentals are all sold with the exception of one unit available for two regular-season games, he said. All 20 units are on level five, the second floor of the new addition.

    The long-term suites sell for $52,500 a season tied to three- and five-year commitments, McDonough said. The single-game suites range from $3,000 to $9,600 a game depending on location. All 20 terrace suites have 10 outdoor seats plus two standing-room tickets, and several bar stools inside a private interior space.

    Those patrons, as well as fans holding tickets for the lounges, eat and drink in communal spaces connected to their respective seats.

    In that respect, the setups are similar to some premium spaces at MetLife Stadium and Sporting Park, Millerwise said. Delaware North Sportservice is the food provider for those two facilities as well as Lambeau Field.

    The Champions Club tickets are sold in two- and three-year deals, and the amenities include coat check and small lockers to store binoculars and radios.

    “It’s like watching the game from a mini-Hall of Fame with the retired numbers and other Packers memorabilia,” McDonough said.

    About 4,000 new fixed seats on the seventh level, priced at $82 a game as a season ticket, are not inclusive and served by general concession stands. There are a total of 18 new stands on that level, Millerwise said.

    With 80,750 seats, Lambeau now stands as the NFL’s third-largest facility while serving the league’s smallest market.

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